Ranking the greatest team winning streaks is a losing proposition.
There are many variables, particularly when comparing sports.
What's more impressive?
The streak's actual number, or how long it took to achieve it?
Is it more impressive to be an NBA team that goes undefeated for two full months, or a college football team that goes unbeaten for four seasons?
The competitive quality found in fewer teams, or the parity found in more teams?
Is it more challenging to have a winning streak against the NHL's Original Six, for example, or to build a streak against the 30-team league of today when your team is clearly not as talented?
Old rules/equipment, or new rules/equipment?
The evolution of rules and equipment has made football more offense oriented, basketball more defense oriented, and baseball more drug oriented.
Travel demands back then, or travel demands now?
What were once long road venture often are chopped into a series of trips played in the same time span. Today's charter flights no doubt are convenient, but traveling by planes, trains and automobiles was much simpler in the past.
Yesterday's era, or today's era?
The endless debate: How would past players perform if they had the advantages of today? How would today's players perform if they had the challenges of the past?
Ranking a team winning streak within the same sports is simple. That's comparing apples to apples.
In the midst of the Miami Heat's 25-game winning streak, we have attempted to compare apples to oranges and rank the greatest team winning streaks of all-time in any sport.
TEAM; SPORT; WHEN; STREAK
1. Los Angeles Lakers; NBA; 1971-72; 33
The NBA consisted of just 17 teams when the Lakers put together their historic run. After a modest 6-3 start to the season, the Lakers didn't lose in November or December and went on to assemble the second-best record in NBA history at 69-13 en route to the title.
2. Oklahoma; college football; 1953-57; 47
This streak assembled by coach Bud Wilkinson's mighty Sooners might never be broken at the Division I level. OU never lost from Oct. 10, 1953, through Nov. 9, 1957. The streak spanned five seasons — longer than a player's collegiate career — and included 23 shutouts.
3. UCLA; men's basketball; 1971-74; 88
During their amazing run of winning seven straight NCAA titles, the Bruins put together an 88-game winning streak. Like OU's streak of 47 straight victories in football, UCLA's 88-game streak began after a loss to Notre Dame and ended with a loss to the Fighting Irish.
4. U.S. Olympic team; men's basketball; 1936-72; 62
The longest streak on our list spanned 36 years before it was snapped with a controversial loss against Russia in the gold medal game at the 1972 Games in Munich. This marked the first time since the sport's inception that Team USA did not win the Olympic gold medal.
5. Brandon (Fla.) High School; wrestling; 1973-2008; 459
For 35 straight seasons, Brandon never lost a wrestling dual meet before losing 32-28 to South Dade from Miami. No American team in any high school sport has ever had a longer streak. Brandon beat the previous record, set by a volleyball team from New York, by 11 years.
6. Concord (Calif.) De La Salle High School, football; 1992-2004; 151
This streak more than doubled the previous national prep record of 72 straight. De La Salle was selected mythical national champ in seven different seasons during the streak. To go unbeaten this long while dealing with kids ranging from age 15 through 18 is truly remarkable.
7. New England Patriots; NFL; 2003-04; 21
From Oct. 5, 2003, to Oct. 31, 2004, the Patriots won 21 straight, which consisted of finishing 2003 unbeaten and winning the first six games of 2004 before losing at Pittsburgh. Win No. 15 was a 32-29 survival against the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII.
8. Connecticut; women's basketball; 2008-10; 90
Though this streak is two games longer than the UCLA men's streak, it's not as impressive given the lack of quality depth in women's basketball at the time.
9. Penn State; women's volleyball; 2007-10; 109
As was the case with Connecticut women's basketball, this streak also began after a loss to Stanford and ended with a loss to the Cardinal. During the streak, the Nittany Lions won three straight national titles, a record-breaking 111 straight sets and lost just 19 sets total.
10. Harlem Globetrotters vs. Washington Generals; basketball exhibitions; 1962-71; 2,495
Comment: Sure, these exhibition games are scripted, but it didn't deter from this team's global entertainment value. Being able to stick to the script for nine years and nearly 2,500 games can't be all that easy. Besides, what if the script called for the Globetrotters to lose the last one?